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BRM

Do things taste better when someone else cooks?

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I have noticed for quite some time that it seems to me that stuff just tastes better when other people make it. Here's what I mean...It seems when I make a dish, whether it is from a recipe or from scratch, I have a long time to consider the flavors. I can 'see' them in my head and taste all of the individual ingredients going into the dish. I develop this vision in my head of what the dish will taste like that it seldom seems to live up to.

Conversely, when I eat someone else's cooking I don't have the opportunity to develop this vision beforehand so I consider the flavors and textures of the dish as I am tasting it for the first time. The only opportunity I may have is the detailed description on the menu or hanging out in the dinner host's kitchen (which I do a lot though I probably shouldn't). Considering the flavors without being exposed to them for very long beforehand seems to heighten the element of surprise and so the dish seems to taste better.

This is not always true, of course. I certainly have made dishes that lived up to my internal vision and also made things that surpassed it, and I certainly have ordered dishes in restaurants that fell very short. Its just that this happens more than it doesn't.

Its kind of like you can't tickle yourself, there's no element of surprise, but other poeple can.

Anyone else? or am I way off base here?


Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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It's the exact opposite for me. I like having complete reign over the seasoning, doneness, etc. For example, I tend to like more pepper (crushed red, white, black, you name it) and more garlic/onion/scallion (when such items are called for) in dishes. My ideal flavor profile of a particular recipe isn't fixed and evolves with each tasting and adjustment that's made, until voila, the flavors are balanced and I'm content, knowing that I've done everything in my power to get it to how I want it to taste.

Likewise, there are exceptions, but they are definitely in the minority. I do have to say though, that there's a distinct pleasure in having others cook for you, and I'm willing to give up control to experience that hospitality, especially when there are no dishes to be done afterwards! :raz:

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I agree, BRM. I mean, I like my cooking a lot better than what I get in most restaurants, but when I get the chance to go somewhere really special, or our friends make something really good, the tastes blow me away in a way I couldn't do for myself. With a recipe in hand, sure, I could reproduce it, but really special dishes often take a lot of time and tasting and reseasoning, and by the time the dish is done, I've basically already eaten it. I've definitely smelled it and have been looking at it for a while. So by then, it's not really a surprise or anything special anymore. I've pretty much already absorbed it and could kind of care less whether I actually eat anything at that point. I think a kind of sensory fatigue happens, where particular tastes and smells just aren't as interesting if you've been exposed to them for a while.

The extreme example of that for me is Thanksgiving. My husband and I adore that holiday like no other and have been known to start tweaking the menu several months in advance. And last year, just as I was sitting the last dish out on the table, I realized I really wasn't that excited about eating -- the exciting part was already done.

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For me, the issue isn't the element of surprise, it's more a willful ignorance. There are 2 dishes that almost always taste better when someone else makes them: macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. When I make them at home I can't ignore how much butter and cheese and fat is in them, but when someone else makes them I can pretend they aren't clogging my arteries. Actually, the real issue is that I'm afraid to put in enough of the good stuff to make them taste good, so they're objectively not as tasty as restaurant versions. I wish I had the problem of not wanting to eat what I have cooked (my mom is like that), but I do love to eat my own cooking.

The only other thing that I prefer someone else to make for me is a latte. I make excellent coffee and espresso drinks, but for some reason I just never enjoy lattes when I make them for myself. Maybe it's because I worked in a coffee shop for 7 years, but that doesn't explain why it would only be lattes and not any other coffee drink.

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For me, it's the opposite, knowing exactly what ingredients went into a dish, I am constantly tasting it and being blown away by the depth of flavour from such simple techniques. One recent example I remember was making split pea soup with a ham hock, I would go into the kitchen every 20 minutes to give it a taste and emerge with a dopey grin because it was just so damn good.


PS: I am a guy.

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I think the biggest problem with enjoying your own dishes relates to sense of smell. By the time the cooking is done you're pretty much numb to the aromas filling the kitchen so appreciation of the finished dish is dulled.

Step outside for a minute or two just before serving something really fragrant - a stir fry, a thai curry, or even plain old fried onions - and it's amazing just how much the aromas slap you right in the face as you step back in.


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I'm the opposite. I may not even be a very good cook, but damn do I love the food I make. A large part of it is probably thinking about the food, planning it, hyping it up in my head, and then of course putting it all together, tasting and adjusting as I go. After telling myself how good it'll be for so long, how can I not enjoy it? There's probably a degree of placebo effect in play, I'd say.

The only exception: sandwiches. I'll happily eat my daily PB&J for lunch, but there's something about even the simplest sandwich made by someone else that I can't replicate myself.


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Sometimes the problem is that by the time we get through the entire preparation of the meal with all the requisite tasting for seasoning, etc. we're already kind of sick of it!

About a month ago, I had dinner at a friend's house and she made a very simple sauteed chicken breast finished with Balsamic and served over plain risotto with pan-grilled asparagus. That meal was so darn tasty I craved it for weeks. I tried to replicate it over the weekend and it was just o.k. (in other words it tasted about how it sounds!!).

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I think the biggest problem with enjoying your own dishes relates to sense of smell. By the time the cooking is done you're pretty much numb to the aromas filling the kitchen so appreciation of the finished dish is dulled.

Bingo. Being in the kitchen all day not only numbs my sense of smell, but also my appetite. I often feel pretty blasé about the meals that I cook, but they might make the best leftovers in the world!

I sometimes wonder how pros deal with this ... how to discern flavors when they're immersed in the strong smells for 12 hours a day.


Notes from the underbelly

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For the most part I really like eating my own food. I think I do a better job than a lot of our friends and family mostly because I don't finding cooking a chore or an obligation. It's a love and means of self expression.

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by the time the dish is done, I've basically already eaten it. I've definitely smelled it and have been looking at it for a while........I've pretty much already absorbed it and could kind of care less whether I actually eat anything at that point.  I think a kind of sensory fatigue happens, where particular tastes and smells just aren't as interesting if you've been exposed to them for a while.

Im glad Im not the only one! This happens to me only with meals that take a long time to prepare, so the sensory saturation idea makes sense to me.

I've stepped outside and refreshed my nose, and then stepped back into the powerful smells, and sometimes I've HATED them & had to air out the entire house. I've served several dinner party meals where I filled up on rolls and butter. I knew everything on the table was good, from tasting it and adjusting seasoning as I went along, I was hungry, but I was done with the food I'd cooked. It did make a nice warm lunch the next day. Fortunately it doesnt happen every time.

Its disconcerting to be cooking, thinking oh no this stinks, and have someone walk in and say wow that smells good. But its much better than having it happen the other way around!

editted to fix typos


Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've always thought that the best part about being "the cook" is that you get to make the dozens of small decisions that make the dish taste "just right" to you. Spicing, salting, saucing, presentation, cooking time -- all just the way I like it. Not that I'm comparing myself to a talented chef (though my cooking is better than many restaurants, that's too often too low a bar to be meaningful) but if you and I are making an omelett or onion soup or steak Bernaise or mac 'n' cheese, I'm going to like mine better than yours.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I don't disagree with the smell argument but the trouble I have with it is that I can go to a friends house or to a smelly (in the best of ways, of course) restaurant and still be blown away by fairly simple things.

I do think there is something about the familiarity of ingredients, tastes and smells. Once they become familiar it takes something really surprising or unique to be really profound.

A case in point from my own experience. In the last few years I have started to cook a lot more Thai food. Anyone who has done a fair bit of it can probably put together a nice curry of some sorts with pantry ingredients and whatever is fresh from the store. I do this pretty often and have gotten "used" to the flavors and so they aren't quite as profound even though they are often very strong.

However I continually remind myself to go back to the book(s) and follow recipes for new things, when i do that the flavors are often very surprising. This happened to me the other day when I made a grilled fish with a pretty simple sauce but was pleasantly surprised at how the final dish turned out. I had no previous frame of reference.

So maybe its about continually trying new things and being careful not to ever get caught in a rut. Easier said than done perhaps. I envy those above like shengcai and Shalmanese who seem to be able to consider everything like it was the first time and simply revel in it with no expectations, good or bad, that are based on prior experience with the dish or the ingredients. At least that is how I interpret their comments.


Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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The extreme example of that for me is Thanksgiving.  My husband and I adore that holiday like no other and have been known to start tweaking the menu several months in advance.  And last year, just as I was sitting the last dish out on the table, I realized I really wasn't that excited about eating -- the exciting part was already done.

I once made an entire Thanksgiving meal for myself. It was a long time ago and I was living alone. Once the cooking was done and everything was like I wanted it the fun part was done. I didn't need to actually eat any of it and, in fact, didn't really want to. I ended up having a pizza.


Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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I know what you mean. When I was a chef, I often did not like to eat. Still don't, a lot. Partly it is the taking in of aroma(s) while cooking that fills one up, partly it is the work of it all, but moreso it is that the cooking becomes an intellectual or creative outlet that separates it from something to eat for oneself.

A quick answer would be no, of course it doesn't taste better when someone else cooks, because I can make things taste exactly the way I like. Plus (meow) I actually know how to cook, which it seems is a dying skill in general. Fearsome, the things some people cook, really. :biggrin:

A more in-depth answer would be that food carries other things than direct taste. Even the finest food can taste like sandpaper if the mood surrounding it is not right. And it is *us* (the ones who eat and the ones who cook) who carry the surrounds to eating that make things taste, emotionally, certain ways.

The simplest (yes and even the most poorly-cooked) dish can taste like manna itself when offered with simple hospitality. It's a free-flowing thing, this hospitality - it's something in the air that some are better at accessing than others. In the *best* restaurants, the act of vocational hospitality is a precise dance, and it is to a great extent what people pay for.

To be made simply and easily welcome, without fuss, with a sandwich. A mere sandwich.

That can taste pretty damn good. :wink:

There are sandwiches or simple meals I'll never forget and never be able to replicate.

..........................................................................

But this is one of those trick questions one should ask job applicants, is it not? :raz:

To discover their style of personality and psychological traits? :laugh:

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I've always thought that the best part about being "the cook" is that you get to make the dozens of small decisions that make the dish taste "just right" to you.  Spicing, salting, saucing, presentation, cooking time -- all just the way I like it.  ......

if you and I are making an omelett or onion soup or steak Bernaise or mac 'n' cheese, I'm going to like mine better than yours.

Well yes, that is why cooking is fun, and none of those dishes you list take very long to make. I'd not 'saturate' during the preparation of any of them. I'm thinking of meals when I'm in the kitchen for 3 hours or more.

I don't disagree with the smell argument but the trouble I have with it is that I can go to a friends house or to a smelly (in the best of ways, of course) restaurant and still be blown away by fairly simple things.

Its not just smell, at least for me. Its all the little tastes along the way as well, and the feel and the look... so in fact all the surprise is gone. And as Busboy notes, that's not always a bad thing!


Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've always thought that the best part about being "the cook" is that you get to make the dozens of small decisions that make the dish taste "just right" to you.  Spicing, salting, saucing, presentation, cooking time -- all just the way I like it.  ......

if you and I are making an omelett or onion soup or steak Bernaise or mac 'n' cheese, I'm going to like mine better than yours.

Well yes, that is why cooking is fun, and none of those dishes you list take very long to make. I'd not 'saturate' during the preparation of any of them. I'm thinking of meals when I'm in the kitchen for 3 hours or more.

re the smell thing - BRB, its not just smell, at least for me. Its all the little tastes along the way as well, and the feel and the look... so in fact all the surprise is gone. And as Busboy notes, that's not always a bad thing!

I just picked those at random. Chili; braised ribs or pork butt; eight-course dinner for ten, (and apparently you've never used the Bouchon 6-hour onion soup recipe :wink: ), whatever....all that time in the kitchen just makes it taste even better to me. In fact, it heightens the effect because nothing really comes together until the last moment and when it does, it's like nothing you tasted or smelled for the long hours leading up to dinner -- the transformation that makes the work worth-while.


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Thinking about the government.

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One of the downsides I think, of your own cooking, living up to your own expectations, is that you're (or should be) tasting as you go. So know what the end result is like before you plate it up.

It ruins the surprise in a way.


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A quick answer would be no, of course it doesn't taste better when someone else cooks, because I can make things taste exactly the way I like. Plus (meow) I actually know how to cook, which it seems is a dying skill in general. Fearsome, the things some people cook, really.  :biggrin:

This is a fair point. I don't think that everything someone else cooks is better, or even good for that matter. Its important that there is some forethought and skills brought to bear.


Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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I don't think it's all that astonishing that things *should* taste better when someone else cooks, if that person cooking (and, when applicable, add the person serving too, as a delicious dish summarily or uncaringly served can be ruinous to its enjoyment) has even an average level of skill.

If we are talking about a creative art or craft when speaking of cookery, then we can compare it to other creative arts or crafts. Writers like to read other writers. Dancers enjoy watching other dancers . . .choreographers the same. Musicians surely do not only wish to listen mostly to themselves. And so on and so forth.

So whether it is an emotional thing felt from the offering of friendship implicit in the food when eating something someone else has prepared . . .or whether it is simply a curiosity as to "how did this person do this and what is it all about", it surely is not off-base to feel this way at all. (Though for some reason there is a lurking hint laying in wait in our culture that there *is* something wrong with not feeling completely self-interested and self-sufficient unto oneself, but then of course there are lurking hints laying in wait in our culture about so very many things we have to sense are completely wrong anyway, that have no real basis in reality but are merely useful whimsies of the Marketing Age or what I like to think of as our Age of Impossible Self Perfection . . . :laugh: Pah. )

.........................................

Gosh it's good to have gone through this exercise of thought.

Now I just have to find someone to cook for me. :biggrin:


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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the answer is to slave away as long as it takes in the kitchen, poking and tasting as often as you have to, and then right before dinner, have one of your trusted sous chefs swing a heavy skillet at the back of your head. skillfully. all goes well, when you get up off the floor you'll remember nothing ... all ideas and olafactory memories will be dashed to oblivion. a surprise will await you in the dining room: the best of all worlds

try to remember to include a couple of aspirin with the amuse.


Notes from the underbelly

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I love eating meals I've cooked and find that the preparation makes them even more tantalizing. I agree with the coffee though for some reason when I'm at the shop cappuccino always tastes better when my sister makes it and she says that it always tastes better when I make it (we both make great coffee btw) so now we take turns :biggrin:

Edited to add that MOM'S cooking always tastes fantastic, I've mentioned it before and someone kindly pointed out that it's because it's made with love!So true so true :biggrin:


Edited by GreekCook (log)

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Gosh it's good to have gone through this exercise of thought.

Well...it was great thought. Thank you for that.

"how did this person do this and what is it all about", it surely is not off-base to feel this way at all.

...or how did this person even think of this. I find myself saying that sometimes


Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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